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Flexible Working in Construction

 

From 6 hours days in Sweden to unlimited holidays at Netflix, flexible working is becoming more popular and it has been proven to boost employee performance and mental health, making employees feel trusted and giving them control over their work-life balance.

Let’s be honest, most of us don’t live to work.

But flexible working hasn’t taken of in the construction industry. Maguire Brothers looks at the reasons why and what can be done to improve the situation.

The rate of male construction workers taking their lives is more than 3 times the national average. Workers often spend long periods away from home and family in high pressure working environments.

The average commute in London is 80 minutes a day. It costs time and increases our carbon footprint. Working from home saves an employee on average 313 hours a year – or 13 days of their life annually.

A greater sense of control over work-life balance through flexible working may contribute towards enhancing mental health within the industry.

 

What does legislation say?

Since 30th June 2014, every employee with more than 26 weeks service has had the statutory right to request flexible working.

This means finding a way of working that suits the employee’s needs, which might include working part time, job sharing, working from home, flexible hours or a zero-hour contract.

An employee has the right to make a request once every 12 months, which should include an explanation of how their flexible working might affect the business and how this could be dealt with.

Employers have the right to refuse the application on specific grounds. These include cost, an inability to reorganise staff, a negative impact on the quality of work, an inability to meet customer demand, insufficient work for the periods requested or planned structural changes to the business.

 

So, what does flexible working look like in the construction industry?

Historically, flexible working has been dominated by women with childcare responsibilities. The lack of flexibility in construction could be a major factor in dissuading women from joining the industry, in which men make up 88% of employees.

The 2014 legislation however, may change this, resulting in more men requesting flexible working on the basis of childcare responsibilities.

There are, however, boundaries to flexible working in construction. Work generally has to take place to meet deliveries from suppliers and construction sites are usually only accessible during limited hours, having them open 24/7 would increase running costs. Different construction professionals often have to be physically at a location to carry out their work and often have to work alongside each other to achieve common goals and targets.

There are other restrictions on site working; councils will not allow noisy work at weekends or evenings, tenants may need to be at home to allow access and workers need to be supervised. These restrictions result in pressure for work to be done at specific times in order to complete the project by an agreed date.

 

How can we make flexibility work in Construction?

At Maguire Brothers, we are embracing the opportunities presented by flexible working and we have seen increased job satisfaction, an improved work/life balance and an increase in employee morale & motivation.

While there are many roles which require the employee to be present at a certain location and during specific hours, changing the way we think is the first step to flexibility.

And it will soon become apparent that there are many roles where flexible working can be adopted, particularly on larger sites and in blue collar jobs.

We started by encouraging conversations around flexible working and addressing issues around fairness and trust, such as dispelling the belief there is a hierarchy of entitlement to flexible working between senior and junior roles.

We have also harnessed modern technology to help. IT allows us to work as efficiently at any location worldwide. Online suppliers have lead the way in 24 hour service and deliveries and most Clients on most sites are happy to allow flexible hours, especially once the reasons and benefits are explained.

Issuing staff with laptops instead of desktop computers and VOIP allows them to work at home. Moving our IT hosting to the cloud allows worldwide access 24/7.

By trusting your employee and empowering them, the statistics clearly show you’ll get better results. And you’ll save money. Remote workers don’t use office space, power and heating nor any of your other resources. Start unshackling the chains, judge people by the end result and not the route they take to get there.

Flexibility won’t work for everyone or every role in every business, but there is awful lot more our industry can do to help our employees reclaim those thirteen commuting days, which will add up to more than one and a half years in the average working life.  And we will improve mental health and save costs at the same time.

So let’s start now and that means everyone – including you!